SUPERMARKET giant Coles has been banned for three years from advertising its bread was made or baked on the same day it was sold when this is not the case.
Coles was also ordered to display a Federal Court notice in its stores and on its website telling shoppers that it had broken Australian consumer law by falsely advertising bread products as "freshly baked" and "baked today".
Former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett, whose complaint about a loaf of Coles bread triggered an investigation by the federal consumer watchdog, said the ruling was a win for consumers.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) launched proceedings against Coles in June 2013, accusing the supermarket chain of misleading consumers to think bread was made on the day at the store when, in some cases, the bread had been partially baked months earlier in overseas factories.
In June, the supermarket chain was found guilty by the Federal Court of misleading shoppers. Federal Court chief justice James Allsop said at the time that Coles had breached three sections of Australian Consumer Law.
In the ruling handed down on Monday, Coles was banned for three years from promoting its bread as being baked in store or made from fresh dough on the day it was sold, when this was not the case.
It must also tell customers that it had been found to have made the false, misleading and deceptive representations by advertising bread as fresh when it had been made and partially baked and then frozen, sometimes months earlier overseas.
The offending breads were sold under the brands 'Cuisine Royale' and 'Coles Bakery', with labelling and advertising claims that they were "Baked Today, Sold Today" and/or "Freshly Baked In-Store".
ACCC investigators said the goods had in fact been made months earlier on the other side of the world, namely, Denmark, Germany and Ireland, before being frozen and transported to Australia.
The court is yet to make a decision on whether to fine Coles, which faces penalties of more than $3 million.
The ACCC investigation was launched after Jeff Kennett complained when he discovered a loaf of Coles bread that was advertised as freshly baked in-store had been made in Ireland.
On Monday Mr Kennett said the ruling should serve as a warning to supermarkets and advertisers.
"I hope this stands as a shot across the bow of not only companies that sell and offer goods and services, but those companies that are contractors to deliver the advertising and promotion of their activities," he said. "The public are entitled to receive accurate information of things that they are being tempted or in the pursuit of purchasing."
Kennett's complaint taken seriously
Mr Kennett said the decision was a win for consumers and showed that the system worked. "The complaint I lodged was taken seriously, was not considered to be frivolous," he said.
"I just wanted to put an end to what I thought at the time was misleading advertising. This ruling has done that. [A fine] wasn't my objective when I made the complaint. My complaint was made with the objective of getting the practice changed."
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said: "The ACCC welcome the orders from the Court this morning, which follow on from the Court's earlier decision that Coles' representations were false or misleading."
A Coles spokesman said the supermarket would comply with the orders and ensure all misleading signage relating to the bread was removed within seven days.
"It was never Coles' intention to mislead our customers, but we accept that we could have done a better job in explaining how these products are made and we have already made changes to ensure customers are properly informed," the spokesman said.